Texas State Rep. Scott Sanford (R-TX) (back, center), Mihran Aroian (front, center), and members of the Armenian American community in Texas after the House hearing of HR 191 on April 24, 2017

Texas House of Representatives Passes Armenian Genocide Resolution

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AUSTIN, Texas —  The Texas House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution affirming the Armenian Genocide by a vote of 137 to 0, on May 19.

Spearheaded by Texas state Rep. Scott Sanford (R-TX) with support from Representatives Rafael Anchia (D-TX) and Jeff Leach (R-TX), House Resolution (HR) 191 says in part: “During World War I, the crumbling Ottoman Empire began a systematic campaign to eradicate its Armenian population, which then numbered more than two million.” The resolution resolved that “the House of Representatives of the 85th Texas Legislature hereby recognize the Armenian genocide.”

“The Armenian Assembly greatly appreciates the exemplary work and dedication of the Armenian American community in Texas, especially Mihran Aroian who led the effort,” stated Assembly Grassroots and Development Associate Mariam Khaloyan. “We look forward to working to ensure that all 50 states unequivocally affirm the Armenian Genocide and the proud chapter in America’s history in helping save the survivors.”

Aroian said: “This is a proud moment for Texas and for all those who support genocide affirmation and prevention. I would like to thank Representative Scott Sanford for his leadership and for all those who worked diligently to make this happen.”

Last month, Members of the Texas legislature had the opportunity to view a screening of “The Promise,” at the State Capitol in Austin.

Former Governor Rick Perry signed Senate Bill (SB) 482 in 2009, which created the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission to help preserve information and experiences of the Holocaust and other genocide events. During the ceremony, he said: “In addition to the Holocaust, there have been five major genocide events in the 20th century, including the Armenian, Cambodian, Rwandan, Bosnian and Herzegovinian, and Sudanese genocides. Survivors, liberators and others who witnessed these atrocities have died without leaving their lessons of survival and humanity.”

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The invited testimony by Representative Sanford included Brandon Aghamalian (Focused Advocacy), Taner Akcam (Clark University), Mihran Aroian (University of Texas at Austin), Haig Baghdassarian (Armenian National Committee), William McWhorter (Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission), Lucia Nazarian, Emily Sample (Holocaust Museum Houston),  and Peter Tarlow (Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission).

Following the hearing, the Armenians distributed literature to the offices of each Texas House and Senate member along with a personal invitation to attend a special screening of “The Promise” held in the Capitol auditorium on April 24.

Over the next several weeks, the local Armenian communities coordinated campaigns to have Armenians and friends of Armenians contact the various committees that held power over the resolution and contacting House members once the resolution was placed on the calendar for a House vote.  The difference between success and failure was the strong showing of Armenians contacting their representatives.

The successful adoption of House Resolution 191 was due to the hard work of so many people. Special gratitude to Lucia Nazarian from McKinney, Texas for working with Sanford’s office to draft the resolution.  Brandon Aghamalian with Focused Advocacy in Austin for working behind the scenes at the Texas Capitol and providing strategic advice, and Haig Baghdassarian with the Armenian National Committee of America. Valuable assistance was also provided by the AGBU, Armenian Assembly, and Open Road Films.